Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault watches a speaker via videoconference during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday, April 17, 2020. The federal government is proposing new policy changes — with monetary penalties — to ensure online streaming platforms experiencing booming revenues face as stringent regulations as traditional broadcasters, which have seen profits decline in recent years THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault watches a speaker via videoconference during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday, April 17, 2020. The federal government is proposing new policy changes — with monetary penalties — to ensure online streaming platforms experiencing booming revenues face as stringent regulations as traditional broadcasters, which have seen profits decline in recent years THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Feds propose changes to Broadcasting Act that may raise $800-million from streamers

The bill will also allow the CRTC to levy monetary penalties for non-compliance

Online platforms like Netflix and Spotify may end up spending more than $800 million on Canadian content over the next three years under a series of policy changes the federal government has proposed in a new bill Tuesday.

The proposed changes to the Broadcasting Act are meant to ensure online streaming platforms experiencing booming revenues face the same regulations as traditional broadcasters, which have seen profits decline in recent years.

“A separate system for online broadcasters simply doesn’t work. This outdated regulatory framework is not only unfair for our Canadian businesses. It threatens Canadian jobs and it undermines our ability to tell our own Canadian story,” said Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault at an Ottawa press conference.

“The government believes that everyone who benefits from the system should contribute to it fairly.”

Guilbeault’s proposed changes centre on creating a new category within the Broadcasting Act for “”online undertakings” that will apply to streamers and broadcasters transmitting programs over the internet.

The changes involve giving new powers to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, an arm’s-length regulator of the broadcast industry.

Those powers could include the ability to force online steaming platforms to make Canadian content more discoverable and to make financial contributions to support Canadian music, stories, creators and producers.

A technical document provided by the government estimates those contributions could reach as much as $830 million by 2023.

The bill will also allow the CRTC to levy monetary penalties for non-compliance, broadcasting when prohibited from doing so or failing to submit information required.

Criticshave long complained that tech giants caught violating the law are often fined paltry amounts that don’t act as a deterrent because they are a mere fraction of the business’s revenues.

Guilbeault did not offer an estimate of how steep penalties could be, but said that he intends to get proposed changes implemented quickly, if they are approved by the House of Commons and Senate.

“We are going as fast as we can,” he said.

“We haven’t reformed he Broadcasting Act since 1991, so it takes time to do it properly, but we don’t want to take too much time because we know that there’s an emergency to act quickly.”

The changes come after years of growing calls from industry players and advocates for foreign tech giants to be regulated in the same manner as Canadian companies.

The push for change was spurred by the increasing numbers of Canadians turning away from traditional broadcasters in favour of streaming platforms like Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime and Crave for video and music.

The government’s technical note said online video services have grown their revenues by 90 per year over the last two years, while Netflix has made its way into 62 per cent of Canadian households.

Netflix said in an emailed statement to The Canadian Press that it is “reviewing the legislation and remain committed to being a good partner to Canada’s creative community while also investing in local economies.”

Netflix reported revenues of $780 million revenue in Canada in the first nine months of the 2019 fiscal year, while the CRTC said the traditional television sector saw its revenues decline on average by 1.8 per cent per year between 2014 and 2018.

On top of facing revenue declines, traditional broadcasters have also had to comply with government demands to support Canadian music and storytelling, but the streaming giants have largely been free of such requirements.

The government will now turn its attention to bridging that gap.

The government’s technical document said it could ask the CRTC to decide which online broadcasters should be regulated, but Guilbeault stressed that user generated content, news content and video games will not fall under the policy.

The CRTC may also be tasked with determining the merits of giving additional regulatory credits to those producing content that is “culturally desirable, but otherwise less likely to be produced, such as supporting Indigenous peoples, French-language creators and racialized and ethno-cultural communities.”

The note said the CRTC may also be ordered to look into what qualifies as Canadian content and whether that definition takes into account tax credits or intellectual property

Even regulatory tools that would provide fair and transparent remuneration for musical artists could be analyzed, the document said.

Guilbeault teased that further regulations could be coming soon to deal with tech giants like Facebook, Google and Apple, which have had tremendous impacts on the revenue of media companies and disrupted advertising.

“We are working on other elements of changes of modernization to the Canadian ecosystems, but these elements will come further down the road.”

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

Canada

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lisa Batstone’s appeal of her conviction and sentence for the killing of her eight-year-old daughter is set for Jan. 12, 2021. (File photos)
South Surrey mother’s murder-appeal date set

Lisa Batstone is appealing her conviction and sentence in death of eight-year-old daughter

LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robot designed by Xenex Disinfection Services. (Contributed photo)
Germ-killing robot on the job at White Rock’s Peace Arch Hospital

Goal to match $100,000 donation met, say PAHF officials

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. (File photo)
Surrey mayor taking it on the chin during budget public hearing

So far, he’s cut five callers off during Monday’s virtual meeting

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

A teacher places the finishing touches on the welcome sign at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Hindsight 2020: How do you preserve a year many Canadians would rather forget?

Figuring out how to preserve the story of the pandemic poses a series of challenges

Haley Callison. (Facebook photo)
Former B.C. pro hockey player frustrated with COVID-deniers after horrific bout with virus

Haleigh Callison hopes people will follow precautions and tone down the rhetoric

FILE – A near empty waterfront train platform is pictured in downtown Vancouver, Monday, April 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
TransLink disables some services for second day due to ‘suspicious network activity’

Customers cannot use credit card or debit card at fare gates or Compass card vending machines

A man stands in the window of an upper floor condo in Vancouver on March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Change made to insurance for B.C. condo owners amid rising premiums

Council CEO Janet Sinclair says the change will mean less price volatility

Google Maps screenshot taken at 7:14 a.m.
Westbound Highway 1 lanes in Abbotsford closed as crews investigate serious crash

Crash occurred between McCallum and Riverside roads at around 4 a.m., next update at 8 a.m.

The Walking Curriculum gets students outside and connecting with nature. (Amanda Peterson/Special to S.F. Examiner)
‘Walking Curriculum’ crafted by SFU professor surges in popularity

The outdoor curriculum encourages students to connect with the natural world

Mirandy Tracy, left, and Tara Kurtz are two Langley mothers who are organizing a "sick out" for Tuesday, Dec. 1 to protest COVID conditions in schools. They're calling for masks and smaller class sizes, among other things. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Politician, labour leader throw support behind student Sick Out day

Langley parents started the movement to keep kids home on Dec. 1 as a protest

Most Read